After Durban: can Climate change wait ?
The Durban agreements made some progress towards a global climate regime, but did not deliver enough to prevent dangerous climate change and its impacts on the most vulnerable countries.
The last UNFCCC climate talks that took place in South Africa last December raised a lot of expectations from the civil society all over Africa and from the developing countries. Unfortunately the outcome did not meet the level of expectations. Although the new package moves the negotiations forward towards a global international climate regime, progress made is not yet sufficient to safeguard the most vulnerable countries already feeling negative effects of climate change, nor to avoid the world heading for 3.5°C increase in average global temperatures. Despite some important decisions on the climate regime and on climate finance, the lack of political ambition put climate justice and vulnerable communities – who are the least responsible for current unsustainable levels of green house gas (GHG) emissions – further at risk. By postponing urgently needed action yet again, the international community risks failing to address the climate emergency.
A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is key to keep a climate regime alive under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Unfortunately, not enough countries have signed this second commitment period, and the ambition of emissions reductions under this “Kyoto 2” is below what science is calling for. There is also a lack of clarity on the legal form and on the length of the commitment period, with these decisions having been postponed to the next climate summit. CIDSE and other NGOs had urged for more guarantees, in the form of a legal framework binding all Kyoto Protocol parties to ambitious emissions reductions for no more than 5 years, after which all countries worldwide would enter a global legally binding instrument.
Though not ambitious enough, this “Kyoto 2’’did ensure that the international climate regime remained on track and that all countries worldwide joined the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWGDPEA). A global agreement on emissions reductions for all is a vital step, as it is crucial that all countries unite in their efforts to stay below a 2°C rise in global temperatures, and even possibly below 1.5°C, compared to 1990 levels. Still, this agreement is far from perfect. Firstly, a global agreement on emissions reductions will only contribute to solving the climate crisis if it is legally binding. Secondly, emissions reduction targets need to be set on the basis of each country's historical contribution to current GHG levels. Finally, a global agreement will only help to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if it is implemented in a timely manner, meaning no later than 2018. These three crucial elements are still missing in the Durban Platform.
The long awaited Durban agreements also set up the Green Climate Fund as a governing instrument for climate finance. Unfortunately, the devil hides in the details, and even if key milestones were set, countries still need to commit to a lot more in order to address the climate emergency.
The implementation of the Green Climate Fund is an important step towards an efficient tool for funding adaptation and mitigation for developing countries, but the Fund will be of no help if there is no reliable and predictable money housed within it. Developed countries still have to identify a set of sources of long-term finance – including innovative sources – to fill the fund. It is the responsibility of developed countries to give developing countries guarantees on the sources that are going to fill the Green Climate Fund, in order to ensure there will be no gap in climate funding after 2012, and that adequate and reliable climate finance will be available, up to $100bn/year in 2020, which have been pledged in Cancun in 2010.
A positive development at the Durban conference was the emergence of a new coalition of the willing composed of the EU, the Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Africa group, which united to build on consistent climate policy, asking for an equitable binding agreement which would allow the world to stay below the 2°C threshold. This progressive group should continue to stick together and push the international community, particularly the key blockers, to take the needed action. The EU will also have to take leadership on mitigation efforts at the domestic level, as the international climate talks didn’t yet deliver enough, and agree to increase its emissions reductions targets from 20 % to 30% by 2020. It is a matter of responsibility of the developed countries to act now to solve the climate crisis for the sake of our common future.
Policy and Advocacy Officer on Climate Justice at CIDSE, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies